Greece to stay closed to tourists until mid-May as flight ban is extended – The Sun
GREECE won’t be open for tourists until mid-May “at the earliest” following a further extension on flights to and from the UK amid Covid-19 fears.
The country is likely to be off-limits for holidaymakers for at least another month – and that is the good scenario, officials say.
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Traditionally the tourist season begins with Orthodox Easter, which this year falls on April 19.
“We’re probably looking at June at the earliest,” said Christina Tetradis, vice-president of the Hellenic Chamber of Hotels.
The UK is among six countries to be affected by the ban announced by the civil aviation authority as part of efforts to stem the spread of the killer bug.
Flights to and from Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain and Turkey are also included – which means any hope of getting to Greece via any one of those countries will also be impossible.
An estimated four million Britons visited the Mediterranean hotspot last year, by far the country’s largest market.
As a result of its dependency on tourism, the Greek economy is expected to be worse hit than any other eurozone member.
With a fifth of the entire Greek work force employed in the sector, tourism has long been considered the nation's heavy industry.
Mass cancellations could see more than half of all hotels go bust with industry officials saying it will now be high nigh impossible to attract the 31 million tourists who visited Greece last year – more than double the number who descended on the country in 2009.
This week, the Institute of Tourism research predicted that as many as 65 percent of hotels are likely to declare bankruptcy as a result of the public health emergency.
“Tourism right now is at point zero,” says Alexandros Vasilikos, who heads the Chamber of Hoteliers. “Hotels are sending out an SOS.”
But hopes are also high that Athens’ handling of the coronavirus outbreak might – just – give the destination the edge on competitors like Spain, Italy, Turkey and France.
Almost alone in Europe, Greece has had a good coronavirus crisis after applying stringent containment measures early on to curb the spread of the deadly disease. Islands, in particular, have been almost entirely spared the illness.
By Wednesday, a total of 2,192 people had tested positive for the novel virus with the death toll climbing to 102. Italy, by contrast, had recorded 21, 645 deaths and 165,155 confirmed cases.
Christina told Sun Online Travel: "No doubt it is our big and strong competitive edge.
"The government’s handling of the crisis and the fact that the numbers have been kept very low is critical when health and safety is so important for tourists."
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But it remains anyone’s guess as to when the country will be able to open its borders. Greek government officials say they are assessing the situation “day-by-day” but are not going to be taking any chances.
She added: "I think if the season starts in June it will begin with independent travel, small groups of people visiting cities."
The isles attract over 25 percent of all arrivals from the UK every year.
"Mass tourism is going to take longer. Take any resort. There’s the issue of a pool and how many can use it, the issue of buffets,
the risk of people getting ill. It’s far more complicated."
Other countries are following suit in extending their flight bans.
Thailand is stopping tourists from visiting until the end of the month as the country continues to fight the virus.
Brits are being warned not to book summer holidays, as the pandemic is likely to continue for months.
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